A SHORTAGE OF LIFE
If one sees his brother sinning, John writes, “he shall ask…life for them that sin not unto death” (1 John 5:16). This is the only reference in the Bible to ministering life to someone. How is it possible to give life to someone? I can give him, say, a watch, but what does it mean to give him life? It means that I impart Christ to him. It is of no help to talk doctrines to him. He has sinned because he is short of life. When we are short of the Lord Jesus, we commit sin. Doctrine will not help us to overcome sin. Only one Person can overcome sin, and that is the Lord Jesus. If we lose our temper, that is an indication that we are short of the Lord Jesus. We do not need a rebuke. We do not need to be told what we should do or should not do. We do not need to be told that we were wrong. The more we are condemned, the more our temper will rise. A rebuking reduces our measure of Christ. What we need is an addition of Him, not a reduction. We need more of Him imparted into us.
Have you ever realized that you sin because you are short of the Lord Jesus? Why do you mistreat your wife or husband? Have you ever looked in the mirror when you were angry and seen how ugly you were? Yet you had every intention of being considerate and loving toward your spouse. Why is it you have not been able to live up to your resolves? You are short of the Lord Jesus.
Husbands, do not rebuke your wife. You will simply make yourself and her miserable. Rebuking makes the situation worse. What can you do? You may say that you must love her. Sometimes that may help, but love may corrupt and do damage. Only Christ works. Only life helps. We husbands must minister life to our wives.
Sisters, deep in your heart you may have the intention to subdue your husband. Husbands like to rebuke; wives like to subdue. You will never succeed in subduing your husband; God created man to be over you. The only husband who can be subdued is the clever one; he will merely be tricking you into thinking he is subdued. Give up your efforts to subdue your husband. What he needs is for you to minister life to him. You must minister a portion of Christ to him. Both husbands and wives need more Christ. Only He saves.
What short simple words John uses! “Give him life”—a first grader can read this. Yet how marvelous is the expression, found nowhere else in the Bible! Some may protest that the Bible tells us to admonish and rebuke. It does, but this is not the word of the mending ministry here. Why is Christianity so degraded? One reason is that there are many to admonish but few to give life. What can mend today’s broken situation? Only the life-giving mending ministry. Christianity’s poor situation is due to the shortage of life.
THE WAY TO HELP A SINNING ONE
In the church life we must learn to minister life. This is what is needed. Do not try other ways. No way of helping is better than that of ministering life.
You may raise the objection that you yourself are short of life; how can you minister it to others? You may indeed be short of life. Then what should you do? Do not go to admonish or rebuke. Do not even go to the other party. You yourself must turn to the Lord. “Lord, have mercy upon me. My brother is sinning; he needs the supply of life. He lacks life. But so do I, Lord. I don’t have much life either. Have mercy upon us, but first have mercy upon me. I need more life. I must have more life.” You may be so burdened that you will even fast and shorten your sleeping hours in order to pray for more life. I can assure you that you will be supplied. If your car is almost out of gasoline, you can turn into the gas station and stay there to have the tank refilled. After a little while your gas supply will be replenished and you can continue on your way. When you yourself have the supply, then you can supply others.
We need to learn that when any brother or sister sins, this is a strong indication that he or she is short of life. To be of help, we must first check whether we have life. Do we have a surplus of life? Do we have more than we need? If not, we must wait on the Lord with prayer and fasting until we get the rich supply. Then we can minister from this supply to others. This is the way to go on in the church life during this time of degraded Christianity.
John stresses that this life which we need to minister to others is simply God Himself. It is the Son of God. “This is the true God, and eternal life.” Our need is to have a bigger portion of the Lord Jesus. Then we shall have a surplus to minister to others, a surplus not of knowledge or doctrine but of God.
(The Mending Ministry of John, Chapter 11, by Witness Lee)